A trying rookie season for outside linebacker Jarvis Jones got a little tougher – and more humbling – when coach Mike Tomlin benched him in favor of Jason Worilds.
Jones, the Steelers’ first-round pick last April, has 15 tackles and just three quarterback pressures, and he is still in search of his first NFL sack.
How many opportunities the former Georgia star gets Sunday at New England — or in the near future — remains to be seen.
The Steelers have been using a three-man rotation at outside linebacker, but Tomlin didn’t give any indication that will continue now that Worilds has passed Jones on the depth chart.
“He’s just not doing enough detail work right now,” Tomlin said of Jones, “and really Jason Worilds is and that’s just the reality of it. Part of playing really good defense is having detail with your work and there’s more detail in Worilds’ work right now. Jarvis needs to continue to work. I think he’s open to that and we’re open to giving him an opportunity to do so.”
Open to giving him an opportunity appears to translate into Jones needing to work his way back into the rotation at outside linebacker before he thinks about reclaiming his starting job.
The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder appeared to be one of the most NFL-ready players when the Steelers took Jones 17th overall in the 2013 draft. Jones, who set a Georgia season record with 14 ½ sacks as a senior, learned the defense well enough during offseason practice to shine during training camp.
And he supplanted Worilds in the starting lineup after just one game. But Jones has made more of an impact on special teams, and the Steelers have not gotten enough pressure on the quarterback opposite left outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley.
It is way too early to read more into the demotion than Jones experiencing growing pains for a rookie who is still adjusting to a life where football is now a job and may be still a little unsure of himself in Dick LeBeau’s complex defense.
It will be telling to see how Jones responds what may well be the first benching of his football career.